Reactions to Abuses of State Power

If a State abuses its power, as described in the previous section (, it is going outside the bounds of its declared formal governance in acting against individuals or groups under its jurisdiction.  If such abuse of power is widespread, it is unlikely that the population has any recourse other than to protect itself by matching violence.

People will feel entitled to use any means at their disposal – up to, and including, terrorism, full-scale rebellion and civil war – to resist an unjust State.  Nowadays it is very easy for people to publish details of abuses and so to recruit support for such a struggle.

People can, though, avoid using violence to protect themselves against abuses of State power if the incidents are isolated and if the Legal Dimension of governance meets certain conditions:

  • Offenders must be prosecuted.
  • The judiciary must be independent from the government (5.2.8).
  • Enforcement of human-rights legislation can protect people (
  • Torture, genocide, ethnic cleansing and other ‘crimes against humanity’ can be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if they are not being dealt with by the country’s own legal system (
  • International human-rights can also prevent a State from using legislation to endorse its abuse of power (

If these legal mechanisms fail to protect people against State abuse of power, though, they will feel that Self-Protection is their only recourse – possibly leading to a collapse of law and order and further escalation of violence, as described later (7.2.6).


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This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/7243.htm